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Oh, Those Questionable Choices!

15 Jan

I love the Prego® Spaghetti sauce ads. A recent one, “Questionable Choices: Hair Style” made me laugh as the woman in the commercial says, “I wonder what other questionable choices I’ve made” and then she recalls a few outlandish hairdos.

Ah yes,  I remember some of the over-the-top hair styles from the past! (I had so many good hair role models!)Poodle_CollegeHairdo_LOLwithGod

  • Remember “big hair”?
  • Remember the “beehive”?
  • Remember the “hair flip”?
  • Remember the “Farrah”?

My personal favorite was the “Split-level.” I wore a sad, curly version of that in college. It was a short, poofed-up bob in the front with long hair cascading over my shoulders. (No, I will not post a photo of me … but I looked a lot like this French Poodle to the right!)

Yes, I made lots of questionable hair choices.

And some questionable money choices.

And questionable food choices, like:

  • Taking a perfectly good bowl of simple Greek yogurt and “confusing” it with honey, chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips!
  • And eating half a bag of potato chips. Not a mini bag … a big family-sized bag.
  • And eating half a carton of raspberry sherbet, because I wanted to clear out the freezer for a diet. (HUH?)

I discovered recently an important concept: I might have waited far too long to eat healthy. Now, with an itsy-bit of hope left, I’m beginning to eat green, lean and clean—trying to regain my health. The jury’s still out on whether I’ll be successful.

I am living out that convicting Dutch proverb, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.”

The decisions that bother me most are my past questionable spiritual choices.

Most of my ministry days I’ve promoted good, wise, godly choices. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always lived them. The sorry truth is:

We can uphold and promote truth to others while failing to live purely by truth ourselves, but sooner or later our fleshly hypocrisy will catch up with us.

I think it’s sad that:

  • I’ve promoted peace while living with anxiety;
  • I’ve promoted rest while working unreasonable hours;
  • I’ve promoted joy while struggling with depression; and
  • I’ve promoted love while protecting my own agenda.

Before you judge me too harshly, what have you promoted while … doing something else?

I understand I’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but I know there are four things I can do to live a more authentic life.

1. I Can Keep It Real.

I can make an intentional effort to tell the truth about my own life. I can be honest, not telling people I’m living one way while living another.

God never lies, and He expects me to be truthful too. I’m not to deceive others about my spiritual state.

I can honestly say I am pure, holy, loving, wise, etc. . . . in Christ. But left to myself, I’m a mess. Authentic people do not excuse their sin; they confess it (1 John 1:8-9).

The process of personal sanctification (progressively becoming like Jesus) is the work of God in us that begins at the moment we trust in His Son.

But we don’t sit around like a lump on a pickle. All our doctrines can be right, but people need to see the changes – the practical side of Christianity.

Consider these words:

“People who equate orthodoxy with authenticity find it hard to even consider the possibility that, despite the correctness of all their doctrinal positions, they may have missed the deepest reality of the authentic Christian life. But we must never forget that true Christianity is more than teaching—it is a way of life.” ~ Ray C. Stedman

We will make progress in becoming more like Christ as we rest in and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of the Word of God, and as we become Jesus’ disciple (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:17-18; Luke 9:23-24). Basically, the Lord must increase and we must decrease (John 3:30). “We are now children of God,” John said, “and what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2).

I will be totally changed, but I have not “arrived” yet. Neither have you.

2. I Can Live a More Others-Focused Life.

My authenticity must, at its roots, include a desire to help others who are caught in the the miserable muck and mire of sin. It’s not only “there but for the grace of God go I,” but a more brokenhearted, “Let me share how the grace of God is rescuing me … and He can rescue you too!”

In my testimony of grace, I can explain how I am realizing the consequences of my questionable choices, and how choosing God’s ways is a far better way to live.

In the midst of this choosing, I must remember I can choose nothing apart from God’s Spirit working in my life. He says, “… apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:4-6). (I have nothing but praise that He is always working in my life!)

3. I Can Seek and Embrace God’s Wisdom.

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). I must seek God and “fear” (honor, revere, worship) Him. Again, I cannot hope to live the “Christian life” apart from having a proper relationship to God.

And neither can you.

God’s wisdom will keep us from foolish pride and all the questionable choices that come from fearing man—wanting to impress people more than living for the Lord and His Kingdom (Proverbs 29:25).

When we hide God’s Word in our hearts (memorization, meditation) we will have greater resources and “light” to make wise decisions (Psalm 119:105) and not sin (119:11). It’s an intentional choice!

Bible study will help us recognize godly wisdom as we “rightly divide” the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Knowing and obeying God’s truth can bring us freedom (John 8:31-32). We are to take every thought “captive” to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)—not entertaining foolish thinking—and control our thoughts and behaviors (Colossians 3:1-6; Philippians 4:8-9) because of who we are in Christ.

4. I Can Remember the End Game.

In the words of an old songwriter, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.” It’s true! I’m headed for eternity with my Father God.

As a biblical Christian, knowing that this life is a journey to my heavenly home and that I will someday stand to account for my life (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), I understand my future reality should dictate the choices of my present reality.

If we remember this is not all there is, we will be motivated to examine and consider our ways and turn to the Lord (Lamentations 3:402 Corinthians 13:5).

As we seek and rely on the Lord, He can enable us to make less questionable choices and more God-honoring ones!

Which of these four points would help you make better choices today?

Dawn

 

 

 

 

This Year: A Simpler, More Authentic Faith

2 Jan

I love the simplicity of a dog’s life.

Think about it. All they care about is food,  affection, someone to chase and a soft couch. And maybe the freedom to bark.

I think my dog might be praying . . .

Dear God:

  • Can you make my master give me more turkey and less dressing?YorkshireTerrier_DearGod_Pixabay
  • Is it OK if I kiss my human after I chew on his underwear?
  • In heaven, will I have to apologize to the mailman… and the trash collector … and all the others I’ve chased?
  • When I get up there, can I sit on your couch? Or is it off limits too?
  • If I bark like crazy and nobody hears me, am I still considered a “bad dog”? (1)

Yes … a dog’s life is so simple. Actually, our lives could be too, I think.

Confucius say“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

I’m one of those people who complicates things in the midst of simplifying them.

Ask me to clean off a shelf and I’ll make labels and add “separators” and categorize everything. Ask me to purge a closet and I’ll do that, but I’ll also add dividers between sleeveless, short-sleeved and long-sleeved blouses … and … you get the idea.

I’m never satisfied with doing “just enough” or “bottom line.” I’ve always got to add something.

Actually, that works pretty well for me most of the time. At least, it keeps me organized.

ChildlikeFaith_MachenQuote_PixabayGraphic_LOLwithGod-blogBut I’m learning an important lesson about faith.

Whenever I try to add anything to faith, it complicates and even diminishes what could be a beautifully simple thing.

American Presbyterian theologian John Gresham Machen wrote:

“The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust Him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more child-like will be our faith.” (2)

Better yet, Jesus said, “… ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4, ESV).

Oh, the simple, humble faith of a little child.

I read about two little girls, playmates, who were counting their pennies.

One girl said, “I have five pennies.”

The other bragged, “I have ten.”

“No,” the first little girl corrected, “You only have five pennies too.”

“But,” the second child quickly noted, “My father said when he comes home tonight, he’s going to give me five more pennies. So I really have ten cents.” (3)

The little girl’s faith was all the proof she needed, though she did not yet have what she hoped for. Why? She believed her father!

Faith is the substance–the confidence–of things we’ve hoped for. Faith gives us assurance or conviction about things we cannot yet see. (Hebrews 11:1). The question is, do we believe our Father in heaven?

There’s a huge difference between childish (immature, unreflective) faith, and child-like faith that says, “I believe and trust my ‘Abba’ (Daddy).” Our faith, to appear authentic to a watching world, must express itself in whole-hearted, whole-minded confidence in the One who loves and cares for us.

We can ask questions of our Father–in fact, He invites all humble inquiries. Christians are not brain-dead zombies. But there is no fear of the unknown when we still have unanswered questions. We have the confidence that what we cannot know, our Father already knows. We can walk on in child-like faith, leaning on God’s wisdom and purposes.

Frank J. Exley wrote a poem that blesses me whenever I am tempted to complicate this simple faith (emphasis mine):

Child of My love, fear not the unknown morrow,
Dread not the new demand life makes of thee;
Thy ignorance doth hold no cause for sorrow
Since what thou knowest not is known to Me.

Thou canst not see today the hidden meaning
Of My command, but thou the light shalt gain;
Walk on in faith, upon My promise leaning,
And as thou goest all shall be made plain.

One step thou sayest—then go forward boldly,
One step is far enough for faith to see;
Take that, and thy next duty shall be told thee,
For step by step thy Lord is leading thee.

Stand not in fear, thy adversaries counting,
Dare every peril, save to disobey;
Thou shalt march on, all obstacles surmounting,
For I, the Strong, will open up the way.

Wherefore go gladly to the task assigned thee;
Having My promise, needing nothing more
Than just to know, where’er the future find thee,
In all thy journeying I go before. (4)

Do you have this kind of simple, authentic faith as you face uncertain days?

– Dawn

(1) Adapted from http://danesonline.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-30718.html

 (2) Machen quote.

(3) Adapted from an illustration:  Otterbein Teacher–Encyclopedia of Illustrations, #3352.

(4) “Step by Step” by Frank J. Exley, Bible Truth Publishers.

Graphics adapted from photos at Pixabay.

Take Off the Mask

30 Oct

Many Halloween masks are ugly and grotesque, but some are just strange!

This three-faced mask from Pinterest* made me laugh … and shudder! Strange, right?

StrangeMasks

And that hamburger mask gives new definition to the term “Meathead!”

Some of the “masks” we wear every day are pretty strange too.

Just a few:

  • A drama queen (or king) mask might be hiding a cry for attention.
  • An obnoxious mask might hide an insecure or frightened personality.
  • A cynical mask sometimes hides a lonely, unhappy person.
  • A know-it-all mask can actually hide a person looking for respect.

As a Christian, the mask that bothers me the most – because I often wear it myself – is the PIOUS MASK.

It’s so easy to be a Christian “pretender” when it comes to spiritual growth.

Think about it . . . we masquerade in many ways.

We might mask our lack of time in the Word of God or prayer with ministry to others.

We might mask our nervousness about coming to God with our sins with a busy schedule.

We can mask our failure to walk in the Spirit with a list of rules.

We may even mask our disobedience with sacrificial living.

Our masks might look good to others, but we forget God sees our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10). He sees past the masks. He knows who we really are.

Our masks may give us some measure of comfort, but they also hinder true intimacy with God and others.

God wants us to be authentic. We can’t impress the Lord, and He wants us to be real with people. He wants us to live to please Him alone, and not worry about what others think of us (John 12:43; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Our identity is to be found in Christ and a biblical view of who we are (1 John 3:1-2; Colossians 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:9. We are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We rest in His love and forgiveness, not the ever-changing perspectives of the culture.

And when we discover His plans for our lives, we can get busy following Him -obeying and serving Him – instead of worrying about the need to impress people (Ephesians 5:8-10; Colossians 1:10; 3:1-2).

We can come out from behind our masks and shine in a dark world (Matthew 5:16).

Are you trapped behind a mask? How would embracing what God says about you destroy this mask madness?

~ Dawn

* Three-face Mask – Paul Fuller Art (UK)

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